Vishesh Films hopes to recreate the magic of its latest hit Raaz (Dino Morea, Bipasha Basu) with its new film Saaya. Shooting for the film, under the baton of director Anurag Basu, is in full swing at Filmalaya Studios, Andheri, northwest Mumbai. Lead pair John Abraham and Tara Sharma, supported by Deepak Dhadwal, Preeti Dayal and Rucha Gujarati, ready for the shot.
Aakash (John) and Maya (Tara) play husband and wife. Dhadwal and Dayal play Tara's parents and Rucha, her sister.
John, who is dining with his in-laws, is explaining he feels his wife is alive. "I constantly hear her telling me 'Aki, do this, do that'." He looks distressed. Tara's parents look at him quizzically, explain such things are not possible and suggest medical treatment. The shot is okayed in two takes.
Last seen in Anupam Kher's directorial debut Om Jai Jagadish, Tara looks beautiful in her light make-up. She watches John go through the shot and says, "He seems well-versed with the dialogues and expressions. Considering that he is a new actor, that's amazing!"
Tara replaced Diya Mirza in Om Jai Jagadish when the latter walked out of the film after differences with producer Vashu Bhagnani. In Saaya, Tara has replaced model Katrina Kaif.
Producer Mahesh Bhatt defends his decision: "I don't know why the media makes a big issue whenever someone is replaced in a film. It is imperative the artiste should fit the character as the film progresses. Katrina was supposed to do this role, yes, but how could I go on with her when she could not portray innocence? I had taken her after an audition and she had not disappointed me then. How can I go on with such an inconsistent performer?"
Saaya deals with the supernatural. According to Bhatt, the conflicts in the film are realistic and viewers will be able to relate to them. "The conflicts are the ones we experience when our loved ones pass away. We never forget them even in our hectic lifestyles."
Bhatt, who was present on the sets of Abraham's debut film, Jism, is full of praise for the model-turned-actor. "John has a great physique, fantastic body language, a willingness to learn and expressive eyes. What more can a filmmaker want? Jism's success has given him confidence. He is very involved in his work."
Tara feels lucky to have Bhatt guiding her so early in her career. "He has taught me so much about acting and sees to it that he extracts the best from me. We share a great rapport. Even John is a great guy to work with -- he has no airs or hang-ups," she says.
Anurag was asked by Vinta Nanda and Raman Kumar to direct the popular television serial Tara when he was just 20 years old and still in college. He went on to direct more serials, ranging from thrillers (Ajeeb Dastaan, Saturday Suspense) to drama (Rishtey) to horror (X-Zone). His passion for television made him abandon his engineering course and he moved on to Balaji Telefilms where he helmed Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi for a while.
He was asked to direct Ekta Kapoor's Kucch To Hai, but the two had a fallout due to "creative differences." Anurag says quickly, "Even though our relations are not the same anymore, she gave me directorial credit when she could have given the entire credit to Anil Kumar. I thank her. I owe an even bigger thanks to Mahesh Bhattsaab for giving me a new lease of life. With all the negative publicity I got when Ekta dropped me, I thought I would never direct a film. I returned to television and was directing Karisma -- The Miracles Of Destiny. Since I am now going to spend a chunk of my time here, the serial is being handled by two other people."
"I saw Anurag directing Ajeeb Daastan and felt thrillers are his forte. I like his honesty towards work. That is why I assigned him the directorial reins," says Bhatt.
Anurag details Saaya's storyline. "The film is a suspense thriller, where John loses his wife Tara in a flood relief camp. She is swept away by the powerful current. But continues to hear his wife speaking to him. He tries discussing his problem with his in-laws, who hint he should see a psychiatrist. They think he is hallucinating and heading for a mental depression. Nothing seems to help him. And then, something happens."
Is Saaya inspired? "Yes, but not from one single book," claims Anurag. "It is inspired from a collection of things I have read on life after death. Like, there was this real-life incident wherein a mill-worker got into a Borivli-bound local train at Lower Parel. When the train was entering Dadar station, he heard his dead mother telling him to alight. He did. Later, he heard the train had met with an accident near Matunga. We have done a lot of research on such happenings and we are going to offer a rational, scientific explanation."
"The film also has Mahima Chaudhry in a special appearance. She is John Abraham's friend and provides him with emotional support," reveals Anurag. According to Bhatt, John always thinks that his wife is not dead and her presence haunts him hence the title, Saaya.
Bhatt hopes to release the film on May 16. He is confident Saaya will do well. "The star system in India is dead. The low economics of my filmmaking involves very little risk."